If the 1967 “classic” The Cool Ones ever pops up again on TCM, please do Mama a favor and watch it.
This one had my kind of “good/badness” written all over it, and when I finally checked it out, it totally delivered, man.
A spoof of the ’60s music biz, it centers on a girl (played by bland blonde Debbie Watson) who freaks out on a Hullabaloo-style TV show and does a tantrum dance that unexpectedly starts a phenomenon.
Her boyfriend is a sliding pop star (played by bland blonde Gil Peterson) and the hotsty-totsy music producer in purple is portrayed by the unapologetically fruity Roddy McDowall, who shows off a cute little body when he strips down to purple shorts.
Most memorable of all is Mrs. Miller, who made a sensation at the time as a middle-aged lady who sang pop standards in squawking operatic tones, becoming sort of the original Susan Boyle meets William Hung.
Mrs. Miller makes her screen debut in the film as the ingeniously named Mrs. Miller, a seamstress who’s catapulted to the spotlight.
It’s also her film swansong, it turns out.
Mrs. Miller can barely enunciate her lines — half the time you’re wondering, “What the fuck did she just say?” — but when she finally steps up and belts “It’s Magic” in a wobbly coloratura, it’s, well, magic.
Other interesting points:
*The film was directed by Gene Nelson, who went on to be the original Buddy in Follies. And it co-stars George Furth, who later wrote the book for Company. So this weird little curio was an unwitting meeting ground for future Sondheim brilliance.
*Also, Nancy Sinatra was supposed to play the lead, but backed out. Nancy would have been WAY better than Watson, and at least she later recorded some of the Lee Hazlewood tunes written for this film (like the poignant “This Town”).
*What’s more, Glen Campbell makes his film debut here, and Teri Garr pops up as a dancing cutie. And the number in which bar patrons spaz to the beat (and off the beat) is worthy of Fosse. Plus there are hallucinogenic montages, a number on a ski lift, and rock covers of classics like “Birth of the Blues.”
So check it out! It’s cool!